Shostakovich wrote his Eighth Symphony (from a total of fifteen) in the summer of 1943, across a period of around ten weeks. It was given its first performance on 4 November that year by the USSR Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Evgeny Mravinsky, to whom the work is dedicated. Expectations were high, for Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, associated with the siege of Leningrad, had been adopted both in Russia and the West as a symbol of resistance to the Nazis. It was hoped that the Eighth would follow in its patriotic footsteps – earlier that year the German Sixth army had been annihilated at Stalingrad, the siege of Leningrad has been lifted, and the Nazis were in retreat.
"No. 8" is a popular song that is in line with "New World", but the performance of Abad here is just "Abado flow" music. It is a subjective strong performance whether there is a live change, such as a change in strength or freedom of expression, yet it is also a splendid place where the naturalness of the song is not lost.
This recording comes from one of the earliest 'bootleg' classical recordings ever distributed to the public, and its entrance into the market was nearly instantaneous. Taped illegally at concert with conductor Leopold Stokowski and the New York Philharmonic, it remains the earliest surviving complete recorded performance of the Mahler Eighth.
When conductors choose to perform a Bruckner symphony, they either use the original version, in the belief that it reflects the composer's true intentions, or select one of the later revisions, which are solidly established in the repertoire. For this 2016 Profil release, Jukka-Pekka Saraste has made an interesting compromise by choosing Robert Haas' edition of the 1890 revision of the Symphony No. 8 in C minor, which avoids the awkward moments in the original 1887 version, yet preserves some felicities that Bruckner omitted in subsequent versions.